Bankruptcy in Canada was already on the rise over previous years, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed over 1 million Canadians to the verge of filing for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy has always been extremely regulated in Canada, thanks to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (OSB).
The OSB ensures that everyone from you to your creditors is treated justly throughout the bankruptcy or insolvency process.
One of the first steps in filing for bankruptcy has always been to meet with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) in person.
However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OSB has released new guidelines and regulations for those who want to file for bankruptcy and LITs.
These new regulations permit LITs to allow for everything from phone and video conferencing to electronic signatures in an effort to recognize social distancing guidelines.
If you’re struggling financially and considering filing for bankruptcy, what do these changes mean for you?
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Talking To a LIT About Your Situation
One of the first things you’ll do when you talk with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee is to talk about all of the options available to you, depending on your financial situation.
A LIT will assess your situation and talk to you about the best ways to get out of debt.
The main purpose of your initial consultation with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee will be for them to make a recommendation for you.
In some cases, that includes filing for bankruptcy.
But, keep in mind that a LIT never automatically assumes bankruptcy will be the best option.
Even if you can’t meet in person, they will go over your finances and determine the most practical solution for getting you out of debt as soon as possible.
It is not a “cookie-cutter” process, and it’s different for everyone.
Some of the potential options a LIT can present to you include:
- Debt consolidation loans depending on your income stability and assets.
- A consumer proposal if your debts do not exceed $250,000.
- A debt management/repayment plan.
If any of those options can be used, it’s more likely that a LIT will guide you through them, rather than help you to file for bankruptcy.
In most cases, bankruptcy is a last resort.
Staying Connected Online
Because the OSB has now made it legal for these interactions to take place online instead of in-person, you can expect a few things as you move forward with a LIT in the bankruptcy process.
After your initial consultation, you can email back and for with your LIT if either of you has any additional questions or if they need more information.
They will also need the correct documentation from you in order to start preparing the bankruptcy.
Thankfully, that can be done online as well if you’re able to scan the documents and send them, rather than handing them off in-person.
Once the LIT receives those documents, another video conference or phone call will take place so they can go over everything with you.
By the end of that conversation, you should be able to electronically sign your digital documents after confirming their accuracy.
This is typically done through secure programs like HelloSign.
Once your documents have been electronically signed, your trustee will submit them to the government.
Doing this begins your stay of proceedings which prevents your creditors from ‘coming after you’ to collect their money.
What Do You Have to Do During Bankruptcy?
Once your documents are filed, the ‘work’ isn’t necessarily over.
Even though you may not have to do anything in person, there are tasks that need to be completed digitally.
One of the useful things about our current technology is that it allows you to make electronic payments.
Some LITs can arrange payment schedules for you to fit your income and financial needs.
With a few little ‘clicks,’ you can digitally manage your payments without having to go anywhere.
In addition to making your payments online (and on time), you’ll have to attend two credit counseling sessions throughout the bankruptcy process.
These can also be done online via video conferencing.
One of the benefits of being able to attend online is that you can find a time that works with your schedule, and attend from the comfort of your own home.
On rare occasions, filing for bankruptcy may require you to attend creditors’ meetings.
Again, thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, those meetings will likely take place via a video conference.
However, that will likely change back to in-person meetings in the future.
The Benefits of Filing for Bankruptcy Online
The unemployment rate in Canada is predicted to stay over 7% for at least another year.
As a result, the number of Canadians who will have to file for bankruptcy or find another solution to get out of debt will likely continue to grow.
While, again, bankruptcy is a last resort for most LITs, it is an option, and can sometimes be the best solution for getting you out of debt.
While the ability to file online has been allowed due to the Coronavirus, there are several benefits to the process that go far beyond the length of this pandemic.
For instance, filing online is convenient.
You can work around your schedule, do it at home, and perhaps find a bit more comfort in the entire process rather than having to meet a LIT in person, which can sometimes feel nervewracking and overwhelming.
Financial issues can impact anyone, especially during uncertain times.
If you’ve gone into debt and need help getting your finances back on track, contact Bankruptcy Canada to talk to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee today.
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